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Jessie Duke Serves the Moment by Planting Her Roots at Shemesh Farms

Serve the Moment* found me at the most perfect time. Moving through severe physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual burnout meant I was coming face to face with a lot of discomfort that I had done a great job of avoiding for a long time while focusing on being busy, productive, and competent in the eyes of a capitalist, constantly ‘on’ society. When I finally chose to listen to what my body was begging me to do — slow down — there came an opportunity to be of service, as part of a cohort of other young adults around Los Angeles who also wanted to serve for their own reasons. 

Being of service to the greater forces of universal love and compassion is of the utmost importance to me. This has always been an intention for my life, but during a time of transition and slowing down, I wanted that intention to bring me closer to the soil of my life. I wanted that intention to connect me to the integrity of my own roots, and the roots of the land I’m on, and to the roots of others in my community. If being of service is really the foundation of my life, I wanted to feel the strength, the softness, and the fertility of that to truly know. By being placed at Shemesh Farms, I got all of that and more. 

At Shemesh Farms, I’ve had the honor of connecting to the spirit of the land on the coast of California, unceded Chumash land, while working with adults with diverse abilities to help grow, harvest, sort, crush, and curate herbal salt blends. Volunteering my time and energy has been so fulfilling, meditative, and nourishing to my spirit. Witnessing adults with different abilities who often don’t have the same opportunities make business, marketing, and creative decisions for the social enterprise, as well as getting to work together in the kitchen and in the garden has been so powerful and so joyful. One of the biggest lessons I’m learning is my nervous system has trouble slowing down, but I can do it! Patience and presence are medicine for my soul — and the gentle plant spirits help too! 

Lastly, having the opportunity to connect with peers my age during a challenging time of social isolation has been a huge blessing. Knowing they are also being of service around L.A. feels so affirming, knowing I am part of a community that is also dedicated to living out values of kindness and lifting up our greater community. Additionally, knowing that the global Jewish community and L.A. Jewish community supports values of social justice, community support, etc. enough to have a program like this makes me proud to be a Jew and inspires me to engage more with my community and continue living expansively in the spirit of tikkun olam

*Serve the Moment is an immersive experience that mixes urgent community service and meaningful learning, in partnership with Repair the World, the Jewish Service Alliance, and other incredible L.A. service partners. From October 11–December 17, our fall corps members will volunteer (either safely in person or virtually), learn, and reflect together, focusing on social and systemic inequities and rooting the experience in Jewish values.

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